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Review of Coda

This week we’ve decided to review Coda, a fully furbished text editor built by Panic Software. Our office has recently started using Coda and since Panic offers a free trial we thought we’d download it and try it for 2 weeks. Having been long-time Transmit FTP owners we’ve really appreciated the quality of software that Panic has produced in the past we were certain that this would amount to a killer of a text editor.

Review of Coda, text editor

What caught our eye initially about Coda was it’s feature set. Here are just a few of the features that Coda boasts their product offers:

  • Advanced Site Management
  • Top-Notch Text Editing
  • Visual CSS Editor
  • Live Web Preview
  • Built-in SSH Terminal
  • Comprehensive Reference Material
  • Real-time Collaborative Editing

Out of this list of features we would like to review a few major features that have really made a huge difference for us in our daily work and then review a few features which we see room for improvement on. We will also put our two bits in on some features which we feel would be great additions.

Advanced Site Management

Site management is something that everyone has to deal with and when you have multiple sites that you are working on, it starts becoming a big issue. In the past we’ve used SKedit to handle our text, html and CSS needs, however it’s often frustrated me at the user-interface level and I’ve definitely been on the prowl for something a little more intuitive. Coda has this in spades!

SKedit Project View

As you can see (above) this is the only way you have of tabbing between projects in SKedit. It’s simple, somewhat effective and it doesn’t really get in your way. But when you start getting a lot of projects added the list becomes a tedious to go through and you can’t tell at a glance which project you’re working on. Enter Coda:

Coda Project View

As you can see (above) Coda has a very visual approach to projects which just blew me away when I saw it. You can organize projects with a simple drag and drop and you can adjust how many projects you can see by adjusting the slider at the bottom right. Pretty simple and we love simple solutions.

You can also define all your site preferences in one simple pane. Kiss goodbye to Dreamweaver multi-step site management, which quite frankly is like having fresh pain cake served to you every time you start a new project. Say hello to the simple.

Define a new site in Coda

You can define your publicly accessible URL, your local development URL, FTP details and Terminal details. What more could you want in a text editor?

The site management aspect of Coda has really helped streamline our workflow and tabbing between projects, pages and terminal sessions has never been easier.

We also appreciate all the work that has gone into importing our Transmit favorites into Coda. It’s as easy as clicking “Sites” from the menu and then clicking “Import Transmit Favorites” and that’s just easy breazy.

Top-Notch Text Editing

Although we are heavy users of the Zend Studio development environment when we are building applications in PHP, we still have a strong need for a quick and fast text editor. Something that has kick butt CSS editing, inline HTML autocomplete and sensible syntax highlighting. Coda has impressed us greatly at the two week mark with its feature set and has met the majority of what we look for in a top-notch text editor.

Below are a few of our favorite features of Coda:

  • Highlight matching brackets as you type
  • Sexy inline HTML autocomplete… it’s just really… sexy
  • Drag and drop autocomplete. If you drag a file out of the local or remote file browser such as a graphic file, it will automatically create the link to the file for you.
  • Tabbed editing
  • Split pane preview or edit
  • Symbols – Essentially a shortcut pane to headings and other elements in the website
  • Love the syntax highlighting when you do a search and replace operation

Code Edit View in Coda

There is of course a little room for improvement

  • Tabbed text indenting – The keyboard shortcut key for this isn’t the best command[] we’ve always typically loved just selecting a bunch of lines and then hitting tab. Sadly this will just delete the lines of text. SKedit and Zend Studio do have this feature however, so I frequently find myself quickly opening a file in SKedit or Zend if I have to do a lot of text formatting.
  • HTML/CSS Auto Formatting – It would be great if there were a few tools built in for cleaning up HTML, converting a page to XHTML, formatting your CSS (either in one line or multi-line), or stripping out those ugly MS word characters that you come across now and again dealing with old websites.
  • Search and Replace – This could use some finessing. We sometimes have to do site wide search and replace options and it’s a little inconvenient to have to select all the documents that we want to search instead of just having an option to search everything site-wide.
  • SVN Integration – This is probably a bigger wish-list item but it would be great if it had integration with SVN (subversion). SKEdit has a great little plugin that allows this integration and we would love to see it in Coda.

All in all it’s a great editor and they continue to add new features. Just since we’ve purchased the product a few weeks ago we’ve had 3 updates and it’s now at version 1.0.3. I hope some of these features make it onto their development list because I’m sure they are things that a lot of programmer’s love.

Live Web Preview

Though we don’t use this feature much as we often find ourselves using Firefox to test sites due to it’s wonderful developer extensions, this has been a handy tool for quick troubleshooting. For example as I write this article I’ve had the window split into two panes, one for editing text and the other for previewing the changes live.

Coda Live Web Preview

Built-in SSH Terminal

This is a new feature for us that we’ve never seen integrated into any other text editor and we are very excited about it. We run our own server and have specific SSH sessions that tie to specific projects and until now have had the frustrating task of tabbing between our development environment and the Terminal application. We are happy to say that we’ve kissed those days goodbye while using Coda. Now we define a terminal session with each project and it’s as easy as clicking ther terminal icon to switch instantly to the SSH session.

The only thing that we see that could be improved here is the ability to set the default path of the terminal session. It defaults to the same path that you set for the remote root of the FTP server, but sometimes these paths are different and the end result is that I end up having to type the path to the actual ssh root folder in manually.

Coda SSH session

Things We Haven’t Used Much

A few of their key features we also really haven’t used. The advanced CSS editor looks great for beginners but we haven’t found it much use in our day to day work. I also find the interface a little too cluttered for quick and easy use.

The comprehensive reference material is also another one that we haven’t really taken advantage of. I could see this being more useful as a beginner or intermediate programmer, but at this point I’ve found little time or use for checking the reference material.

Sadly we haven’t really used the collaborative editing feature yet in our production enviroment. This is largely because we’ve been using SVN on all our projects and we haven’t really had much occassion yet to really work in real-time. The concept is definitely an intriguing one and we’ve definitely played with it, we’re just not sure we’ll ever end up using it in our environment.

Conclusions

We have to give Panic two thumbs way up for Coda. It’s simplicity, clean UI and awesome built-in features have definitely convinced us to switch from using our current editor SKEdit. While there are a few features we wish would be included, the development cycle seems pretty fast with new versions coming out every few weeks. All in all, another excellent product from a reputable company.

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